Asked to chose the single most striking feature of this Tour it has to be the sheer natural beauty of the Kackar mountain landscape in the Karadeniz region of Turkey.
Set close to the Turkish border with Georgia, remote & as yet unspoilt, retaining the unique Hemsinli culture, it’s easy to see the Kackars as an extension of the Himalayas.
Powerful rivers from mountain meltwater carve deep steep sided valleys between the Highlands – the name for the mountain foothills – the Firtina Deresi, Storm River, probably the best known in the Hemsin valley system. Passing through the gateway towns of Camlihemsin & Ayder beyond which the semi-permanent Yayla are the principal settlement, we walk routes which make this region popular with trekkers; across the Highland plateaus & high alpine wildflower pastures, past deep turquoise glacial lakes, through the lush green & white monochrome of a white water valley in mountain mist.
Off the beaten track & high in the foothills, early morning in Pokut Yaylasi, when the sky clears to reveal the backdrop of the Kackar peaks is hard to beat. The Kackars known historically as the Pontic Alps – scene of Xenophon’s long march in his “Anabasis”– bordered the Roman, Byzantine & Ottoman empires.
This is a deeply affecting landscape. I trekked here in August last year with a group of Turkish friends – some Istanbullus & some from Ankara – who joked that the region would leave you sick, heartsick that is; it’s true, one leaves Karadeniz with a strong desire to return.